top of page

Five Questions with a Leader - Cristina Juesas

April 30th 2024

WhatsApp Image 2024-05-01 à 06.21.09_00eb23d0.jpg

Cristina Juesas is the Immediate Past District 107 Director (2020 - 2021)

How has Toastmasters impacted your personal and professional growth as a leader?

One of the things I love about Toastmasters is that you learn without noticing, and as you go. At first, you start by holding some roles during your club meetings, then, you may take some roles at club level... and the sky is the limit.
My journey in Toastmasters, starting as Vice President of Education (VPE) and advancing through roles such as Club President, Area Director, Division Director, and eventually to district positions like Club Growth Director (CGD), Program Quality Director (PQD), District Director (DD), and Immediate Past District Director, has been foundational to my development as a leader.
As VPE and Club President, I learned the importance of effective management and how

to lead a team towards common goals, ensuring all club members felt included and partof our collective success. This role enhanced my skills in strategic planning and member engagement, essential for any leadership position.
As Area and Division Director, I expanded my horizons beyond the club level, managing multiple clubs and navigating diverse challenges. These roles taught me to adapt my leadership style to different contexts and to effectively communicate and mediate in more complex scenarios. This experience was particularly beneficial professionally as it mirrored the dynamics of managing larger teams in a corporate environment.
In District-level roles like CGD, PQD, and DD, my leadership skills were tested and honed at a broader organizational level. I developed competencies in large-scale project management, strategic planning, and stakeholder relations. Leading the district during the pandemic as DD, I learned to lead through crisis and uncertainty, fostering resilience not only within myself but also among the team members.
As Immediate Past District Director, I focused on mentoring and succession planning, ensuring that new leaders were prepared and supported. This role highlighted the importance of legacy and continuity in leadership, teaching me valuable lessons about building and sustaining leadership capacity that I've applied in my professional life.
Through these roles, Toastmasters has profoundly impacted my personal growth, boosting my confidence and enhancing my public speaking skills. Professionally, it has equipped me with a robust set of leadership tools that are applicable in any leadership role, particularly in areas requiring adept conflict resolution, team motivation, and strategic foresight.

What strategies do you use to effectively lead and motivate your team in Toastmasters?


Leading and motivating a team in Toastmasters requires a nuanced approach that balances task orientation with emotional intelligence. My focus has particularly been on cultivating resilience and loyalty among team members, which are crucial for sustained engagement and success.
I emphasize the importance of resilience by encouraging a culture of continuous learning and growth. This involves framing challenges as opportunities for development and celebrating the efforts, not just the outcomes. For instance, when projects or events don't go as planned, rather than focusing solely on the setbacks, I guide the team to reflect on what was learned and how we can adapt for future success. This approach helps in building a resilient team that is better equipped to handle the uncertainties inherent in leadership and organizational activities.
Loyalty within a team is cultivated through trust and genuine care for the team members' personal and professional growth. I make it a priority to get to know each team member, understand their aspirations, and recognize their contributions openly. Regular one-on-one meetings, personalized feedback, and providing opportunities tailored to each member’s growth goals are some of the ways I build loyalty. Additionally, maintaining transparency about decisions and club or district direction reinforces trust and commitment to the group’s vision.
Also, effective communication supports both resilience and loyalty. I ensure that all team members are kept in the loop about changes, expectations, and the reasons behind decisions. Regular team meetings, updates, and open-door policies encourage an atmosphere where members feel valued and integral to the team’s journey, which in turn strengthens their commitment and motivation.
I also promote a shared leadership model where team members are encouraged to take initiative and lead projects or segments of meetings. This not only develops their leadership skills but also reinforces their loyalty to the team by making them stakeholders in our collective success.
Through these strategies, I strived to create a team environment in Toastmasters that is robust, supportive, and motivated, where resilience is nurtured and loyalty is a natural outcome of our collective commitment and shared values.

Can you share a memorable experience or lesson learned from your time as a Toastmasters leader?

One of the most impactful lessons I've learned during my time as a Toastmasters leader came during the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic unfolded, our District, like many others, saw membership numbers plummet as members faced personal, professional, and financial uncertainties. This period tested our resilience and commitment but also highlighted the profound importance of our community.
During this time, instead of focusing solely on numbers and recruitment, we shifted our emphasis to supporting each other. We recognized that the health and well-being of our members were paramount. Meetings became not just about practice and learning but also about providing a space for members to connect, share their experiences, and support each other emotionally. We leaned on the strength of our Toastmasters community to navigate these challenges, focusing on the well-being of each member and ensuring that everyone felt included and supported.
I remember an online District Conference with a Gala Dinner where everybody was gala dressed at home, having dinner together... and we ended up dancing together, just as if we were in person.
This experience reinforced the idea that in Toastmasters, while the educational program is robust and designed to endure, it's really the people who make the program come alive. Protecting and caring for the team became our top priority. We managed to sustain the year as best as we could, not by pushing harder, but by pulling closer together as a community. This focus on mutual support and prioritizing the human element within our club has shaped my approach to leadership ever since, emphasizing that in times of crisis, caring for people is the most crucial leadership role of all.


How do you balance your responsibilities within Toastmasters with your other commitments?

Balancing my duties within Toastmasters with other life commitments did involve strategic time management and prioritization, enabling me to fulfill my roles effectively without compromising on the quality of my personal or professional life.
My approach included rigorous scheduling and time-blocking techniques. I allocate specific times of the day/week to focus on different roles; in my case Toastmasters, my own business, an my family. I also used digital tools and calendars to keep track of deadlines and appointments, ensuring that I was always prepared and never double-booked.
Understanding what needs immediate attention and what can wait is crucial. I prioritized tasks based on their impact and urgency. For example, while organizing a TEDx event, critical tasks like securing speakers or venue arrangements take precedence over less time-sensitive duties. This methodology helps me ensure that I'm not just busy but also productive.
In all areas, I recognize the importance of delegation. At Toastmasters, I empowered other club officers to take on more responsibilities, trusting them to handle certain tasks autonomously. Similarly, for TEDx, I work closely with a team whom I trust to manage various aspects of the event planning, and even with my life. This lightens my workload and at the same time, it also builds a collaborative spirit and leadership within the team.
My commitments are dynamic, so regular review of my schedules and priorities is necessary. This flexibility allows me to adjust to new demands or shift focus as required by the evolving circumstances in my professional or personal life.
I was able to maintain a balanced approach to handling multiple roles, ensuring each commitment receives the attention it requires without sacrificing my well-being or that of my family. This balance is key to sustaining long-term productivity and fulfillment in all facets of life.

What advice do you have for Toastmasters members aspiring to take on leadership roles?

For Toastmasters members who are contemplating stepping into leadership roles, my foremost advice is to not hesitate in signing up for these opportunities. Leadership in Toastmasters is not just about holding a position; it’s about the continual growth and insights you gain every minute you are involved. Every role, whether it is at club level, at District level, or even as project leader, offers a unique set of challenges and lessons that contribute significantly to your personal and professional development.
The learning doesn’t stop when your term ends. Often, the skills and experiences you acquire from your leadership roles continue to yield insights and benefits many years down the line. These roles push you out of your comfort zone, teach you about managing people, planning events, and speaking publicly with more confidence—all skills that are immensely valuable in any career.
Moreover, taking on these roles shows a commitment to your own growth and to the well-being of your club. It allows you to give back to the community that supports your development and helps forge stronger connections within the group. Leadership is also about service; it's about improving not only yourself but also helping others grow by creating positive, supportive environments.
So, dive in, take on a role, and embrace the learning that comes with it. You'll find that the more you put into your leadership experiences, the more you and your fellow members will get out of them.

bottom of page